Good health is like growing a garden—we must actively cultivate it. You can't just throw a bunch of seeds out the back door and expect a garden to appear. Healthy plants require good soil, sunlight, water, and weeding. If you neglect these basic principles for even a couple of days, your once perky plants will be drooping on the dirt.
Likewise, we can't neglect the body's basic requirements and expect to stay healthy. Cultivating good health requires proper nutrition, hydration, exercise, and rest. While the signs of neglect may not show up overnight, failing to establish good habits will catch up with us sooner or later. So if you're feeling lethargic, irritable, or see other symptoms creeping up, it's time to get back to the basics.
The food we eat is the fuel our body needs to function properly—down to the very last cell. That's why it has such a profound effect on our overall health and well-being. In a garden, adding nutrients to the soil results in healthier plants that are able to fight off pests and disease. Similarly, if our meals and snacks are nourishing, vital, and health-giving, our body will naturally grow stronger and be less prone to harmful bacteria, viruses, and disease.
A wholesome, well-rounded, plant-based diet is by far the most nourishing way to eat. Plants contain an abundance of nutrients to nourish, heal, and detoxify, thereby allowing our bodies to be healthy. Not only is eating meat unnecessary for good health, but it has also been linked to serious health conditions, such as colon cancer, and it contains toxins and hormones from the animal that can make us more tired, stressed, and irritable. Not ready for a drastic change? No problem. Switching to a vegetarian diet doesn't have to be all-or-nothing—cutting back on even a little meat is still beneficial.
Rather than dwelling on what you can't eat, focus on what you can add to your diet. If you think “vegetarian” or “plant-based” means bland and boring, you're in for a pleasant surprise. There are many tasty meat alternatives, and the delicious, meat-free meals you can create with fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains, nuts and seeds, dairy products, and healthy fats and oils are endless. Once you discover the possibilities and experience the benefits of eating vegetarian, there's no turning back.
Remember to take the time to chew your food well. This simple yet often neglected step helps reduce the stress on your digestive system. Digestion begins in the mouth. Proper chewing releases saliva into the mouth, which helps break down food, allowing for better nutrient absorption in the intestines.
Water is one of the most important components of good health, yet most of us don't drink enough. The body is over 70% water, and all of the body's systems depend on water to run smoothly—from digestion to elimination to production of blood, lymph, digestive fluids, perspiration, and so on. Common health complaints such as headaches or constipation can often be relieved just by drinking enough water.
Try to drink around 8 glasses of water a day—more if you weigh over 150 pounds, less if you weigh under 120. (To find a good minimum for yourself, take half your body weight in pounds and drink at least that many ounces of water per day.) Drink more if you live in a hot climate or when you exercise and perspire. When it's cold outside, drink your water warm or substitute some herbal tea as part of your daily water intake. Broth soups can also count toward our water needs.
We all know what happens if we don't water a garden for a couple of days, but dehydration would be more like watering just the top layer of soil and not the roots. It won't immediately kill the plants, but it will weaken them.
You can't lead a sedentary life without some kind of health consequences. Sitting for long periods of the day—whether at a desk, in a car, or just vegging out on the sofa—weakens the body both internally and structurally. It's not that we all should be doing circuit training at the gym or running marathons. A little movement goes a long way. Just standing up at your desk and walking around from time to time at work can make a huge difference. If you drive a lot, find time to get out of your car and go for a walk, even if it's for just 5 or 10 minutes. Walking is one of the most beneficial forms of exercise, suitable for just about anyone. Try to make time to walk every day, or find another activity or sport that entices you to exercise on a regular basis.
In addition to some form of cardiovascular exercise, add yoga to your daily routine. Yoga's time-tested asanas will not only relieve stress and tension, but also improve the functions of all the major systems in your body, including circulation, digestion, muscular strength, and so on.
No one is too busy to exercise. Make it a priority and start with something you can do, whether it's a 10-minute walk on your lunch break or a few minutes of yoga asanas followed by relaxation. You will start to feel better, and when you feel better, you'll be motivated to do more.
One of the most important things we can do to stay healthy is to get enough rest. The body repairs and replenishes during sleep. Lack of sleep taxes our immune system, slows healing, and diminishes our ability to think clearly. A busy schedule, heavy exercise, emotional stress, and even changes in the weather can sap our energy. So at the end of a tiring day, try to get to bed an hour or two earlier. A little extra sleep will help you feel more relaxed, recharged, and ready to take on the next day.
Don't wait until you are feeling wilted. Get back to basics and start cultivating good habits and good health today.Subscribe to the monthly newsletter!